CULTURE : An impressive little collection of moments; John Slim guides us to our seats in the world of amateur theatre.
There were several reasons why my visit to Sutton Arts Theatre's Blithe Spirit was an unusually interesting experience, quite apart from the satisfying excellence of Colin Mitchell's production.
Somebody said, "At this moment in time", and if that is in Noel Coward's script it means that an expression that is widely believed to be a fairly modern aberration goes back in fact to 1929.
And then there was a line lamentably lacking The Master's trademark precision: "That must have been her we passed. . ."
If I had written that in my run-up to School Certificate, my head would have rolled.
And I noted, for the second time in recent weeks, the mispronunciation of inventory, which should have its accent on the first syllable. I mention it, not to quibble in the wake of a delightful evening, but because it cropped up to augment what I thought was an impressive little collection of moments gathered in the space of a couple of hours.
There was yet another one that leaped out and hit me. It cropped up in a line that said, "There's a snake in the grass for you!" Nothing very unusual about that, of course, except that snakes in the grass had not crossed my conversational path for years - until I had sat in onA Snake in the Grass at the Norbury Theatre, Droitwich, the night before Blithe Spirit opened last Thursday.
That struck me as being quite strange, if not perhaps quite as strange as the goings-on initiated by Madame Arcati - played at Sutton Coldfield with flamboyant and eccentric splendour by Ann Dempsey. And what was unusual about this particular Madame Arcati was that she quite clearly almost failed to make it into the production's programme.
It was obvious that somebody had tapped the table and asked if anybody was there, just in time to discover that Madame Arcati wasn't - which is why she appeared somewhat ingloriously on a narrow strip of last-minute paper stapled to the top of page two of the programme.
Then there was the handsome row of books on an upstage shelf, lending an air of anachronistic distinction to the handsome setting, in as much as Reader's Digest Condensed Books had not burst upon us in the years before the war.
I could have told you more - except that I have no idea what I meant in my note to me, scribbled in capital letters in the darkness, which I suppose is in itself a bit odd. For the record, it said, "RDCB" and if anybody can suggest a translation, I shall be delighted.
While we're at it, I shall also welcome thoughts as to how Noel Coward chose to name the couple in whose home he set his evergreen comedy. Condomine must stake a claim as one of theatre's odder surnames.
And finally, quite apart fromthe admirable precision of diction that Len Schofield brings to Charles Condomine, I have to record that Elizabeth Kane's Elvira is a charming ghost, floating about in grey and diaphanous blue while speaking in a voice that is rounded, plummy, sexy, breathy and quite transfixing. She is due to carry on haunting until Saturday.
Incidentally, these are good times for Noel Coward: Charlemont Dramatic Society opens with Hay Fever at West Bromwich tonight.
Still with Sutton Coldfield, the amateur stage in the borough has suffered two blows with the deaths of Hilary Dorman, a founder member and leading light of Sutton Arts Theatre, and Harry Carmichael, for more than 30 years a popular director and stage member of Trinity Players - who perform at Sutton Arts Theatre.
Hilary, who was 83, was with SAT from its beginnings in 1945 and one of her last contributions was to update its archive history in time for this year's diamond jubilee celebrations. She had been the group's president in 1976 and its chairman from 1990-1998 and had chaired its arts directorate and management committees.
Harry, who was 70, was well known for his Black Country Enoch and Eli Stories and Two Ronnies routines. Less obviously, he provided the voice of Calypso, the evil wizard in the video game Simon the Sorcerer.
Hazel Evans, a member of the SAT arts directorate, said, "Harry was a fine actor and youfelt 'safe' on stage with him. And Hilary was a brilliant director who was very innovative and knowledgeable. She brought many good plays to our stage It will be the Ad and Ed Show when two doctors in the same practice at Bromsgrove are the leading lights in a farce set in a health spa, due to be unveiled by Wythall Theatre Company next week.
Adam Lee was already a member of the group and he inveigled Ed Parrott to join. Their partnership is preparing to blossom in David Freeman's Kindly Keep It Covered, at Kingsley Theatre, Redditch, opening on Wednesday for four nights.
BMOS Youtheatre will be at the Old Rep next week with BMOS to Broadway, a musical tour of cities around the world. The show will feature 31 numbers in locations that include London, Paris, Nice, Salzburg, Chicago, Cuba, Rio de Janeiro, St Tropez, Baltimore and New York.
It will run from Wednesday to Saturday.
Meanwhile, the group is looking for about half a dozen boys aged 14-18 to take part in Les MisArables (School Edition) for which rehearsals will start on Sunday, November 20.
Alan Hackett has more information on 07890 306318
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||Nov 2, 2005|
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